Thursday, January 31, 2008

Job Security

We can't go home again. I already said that, didn't I?

It's true enough, most of the time. They told us going in: you will be lost in time and space. You'll be past the point of no return long before your first gig even begins. You will wake up serving people centuries dead and lightyears distant, with no hope of backup or relief.

Expect nothing, they said. We don't know what we'll be in a thousand years, or a million. We might bomb ourselves back into the Stone Age a decade from now. We're like that. But don't lose hope: we're like this too, we reach for the stars, we can fall into savagery overnight but we'll have millennia to climb back up before you check in on us again. Maybe one time you'll build a gate and nothing will come through, but the time after that you'll release angels. You never know.

Isn't that the fun part, though? Finding out?

We can't really find out. We don't dare stop long enough to get a good look. Eriophora's huge after all, she is fucking massive, she carries the weight of mountains in her cold black heart. No, it's not optional: that speck of squashed matter is what's kept us falling all these millions of years. But try maneuvering with that kind of mass. Ery flies like an eagle over interstellar distances but she steers like a pig on the short haul. We're ballistic from the moment we wake up to the moment Ery puts us down. We dive through the needle's eye at a fifth of lightspeed. Our tame singularity jump-starts the very continuum, shocks eight megatonnes of space-bending machinery to life, and by the time the readings have settled we're already too far gone to do anything but squint aft and glean what we can from the red shift.

If you really wanted to, you could stay behind. Refit a shuttle with extra shielding, decelerate during construction, keep safely distant as Eriophora dives past on its way to heat death. Wait out those scorching, radioactive birth pangs, let the newborn wormhole settle in its collar. Then, in theory, you could go home. Whatever home has become by now. And if whatever's coming the other way lets you pass.

Someone even tried it, once. I think he and I may have been close. But it was his decision. The rest of us just kept going.

We're not stupid. We've caught ocassional glimpses of the things set free in our wake. Sometimes they're the furthest thing from friendly.



Blogger Carl said...

I take it that this is an excerpt from something in the works? Or maybe one of the short stories that I haven't managed to find?

January 31, 2008 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Jörn said...

I remember you telling about three ideas about future novels after you've finished Blindsight, I think this was one of them. Is that part of Sunflowers?

It's quite cool. Can't wait to see more.

January 31, 2008 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Tor said...

That's fucking awesome. Seems like it would tie into a novel named Sunflowers, in which case, I can't wait until it comes out.

The idea of an upjumped us, skip tracked over millions of years, is really cool.

There won't be smurfs, will there?

January 31, 2008 3:56 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

You make me want to write again, Peter.

January 31, 2008 4:20 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Love the edge!

The idea of flashes of the future reminds me of Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Charles Sheffield. That book felt unsatisfying, but I was too young to know why.

This is going to be fun!

What's this about the Sunflowers?

January 31, 2008 5:39 PM  
Blogger Raja said...

Your prose absolutely nails the balance between Rushdie's 'voluptuous' and Gibson's 'waifish.' Nice.

January 31, 2008 6:21 PM  
Blogger Mac said...

I'm getting that tingly feeling!

January 31, 2008 8:21 PM  
Anonymous Julie K said...

Oh, that's all sorts of awesome. I really want to see more.

January 31, 2008 9:04 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Your hard sci-fi just got harder? Kinda like... nevermind. Anyways, I love reading anything with exceptional theoretical physics. ^^

January 31, 2008 9:40 PM  
Blogger razorsmile said...

Hey, this is part of the Bob Builder wormhole tale, innit? Sweet.

February 1, 2008 12:16 AM  
Blogger razorsmile said...

Sorry, that should have been "Bob the Builder". The hand is quicker than the brain, apparently.

February 1, 2008 12:18 AM  
Blogger Jeremy Ruhland said...

Wait, are they powering the thing with some kinda blackhole? And the exhaust is spewing out, er...I don't wanna know.

February 1, 2008 1:53 AM  
Anonymous rakiah said...

Shit, now you got me jonzin' again...

A philosophy professor I used to work for (as an editor) said to me when I was getting over a rough patch with a girlfriend (she had just become my past tense girlfriend at the time)...that my parents really fucked me up bad.

They have a good, loving relationship, and that is a truly sick form of child abuse...

Why? Because life isn't like that...that type of relationship is way too rare, it is too high a goal post and I will almost surely never have a relationship like that in my life...but because I grew up with that, I will always see them as the standard upon which to judge any relationship I am in. And this will always be a torture to me.

There is something to what he told me I must say.

Well, Peter, you also abused REALLY fucked up my life...

I used to be able to enjoy, to some degree, even mediocre, sappy Sci-Fi space fantasy, nonsense. Even though there is always that level of kitschy utopian marmalade smeared on top, I could still consume it.

Then a year and some ago, someone had to send me a link to your little FizerPharm corporate slide presentation, and I was intrigued enough to find out more about it.

I rue the day.

I mean, reading Blindsight and the Rifters trilogy was a blissful hallucinatory binge, but it is finished, over...done...finito..

What is there for me now?

I keep picking up different sci-fi novels by other authors, and read ten pages and just can't finish... Where is the Science? Where is the tension, where is the worthy prose? Where is the downright meanness, the grittyness...the mystery?

I haven't found a good Sci-fi novel since then... none that push the envelope, either in prose, ideas or energy... none that give me that somewhat sickly, depressed, energized feeling that even this little piece you just wrote gave me.

What have you done to me?

Please, either suggest something for me to read in the meantime that is worthy or lock yourself in your house with 5 months worth of Tequila, ganja, ritalin, bottled water, ramen noodles, or whatever you need to get the job done, and finish me another book!!!!!

February 1, 2008 6:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Precious few things excite me these days:

the release of a new record every so often.

the occasional film.

reports published in my field tend to fill me with dread.

and very rarely new sciene fiction.

But, this merest sliver of an excerpt sent a touch of excitement down my spine.

And to boot, the desperately romantacised science talk is there along with the (now trademarkable?) all pervading sense of "you're fucked, real hard. But at least it's going to be pretty spectacular when everything goes down". Although, in light of this the title should have been "job security?"

But, why is the ship named after a bunch of spiders?

I am pretty damn excited about this!

February 1, 2008 9:31 AM  
Blogger Alehkhs said...

Eriophora: greek, erio meaning "wool" or "thread", and phorein "to carry."

So we've got a "thread-carrying" ship that also shares it's name with a genus of spiders, which weave threads.

Except in the ship's case, it appears that the threads are wormholes...

February 1, 2008 3:13 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Thank you to all who made with the effusive praise; given that I'm still just coming back out of the hiatus, it's nice to know that I've either still got a) it, or b) a small but eager coterie of toadying sycophants. Really, either is good.

I'll be dropping little fiction niblets ("fiblets") in here occasionally — and maybe even Easter-egging them on other pages, just to drum up local activity. The "In Progress" page is still the go-to place for major projects under construction; these fiblets exist mainly to enhance the local atmosphere, and to entice you with pheromonal hints of things to come. (Or, I suppose, of things that might-have-been, if one project or another proves unsellable.) Since their job is to drive you mad with desire, not to inform or educate, I won't be answering the nuts-and-bolts questions they may raise. Exceptions to this rule will be rare. For example:

I take it that this is an excerpt from something in the works? Or maybe one of the short stories that I haven't managed to find?

Neither. And both.

There won't be smurfs, will there?

Perhaps. But they will only be a phase. Like immortality.

February 1, 2008 4:20 PM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Steve, what's that thing in your mouth? And why does it only have one eye?

February 1, 2008 4:25 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Having just bombed my theo. quantum midterm I can't say I'm too keen on anything with physics, but my my. PW's writing can be spied far away, it's so distinctive. Incidentally, good job inserting at least a little biology into your fiblets. I'm so sick of SF authors naming their singularities "Charybdis" and the like.

February 4, 2008 1:15 PM  
Blogger TonyC said...

Loved it.

I do hope it's part of a larger work.

February 4, 2008 4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

needs to have some ref to Tau Zero somewhere.

February 4, 2008 4:38 PM  
Blogger The Lake Fever said...

I've run out of books to read at the moment, so do hurry.

February 4, 2008 5:19 PM  
Blogger TheBrummell said...

A little burst of cynical happiness. Thank you, Dr. Watts.

February 4, 2008 9:18 PM  

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